Friday, April 28, 2006

Mustafa Barghouti

Earlier this week, Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti was on campus, and I was able to attend several events associated with his visit. Unfortunately the public lecture I made it to was a standard discussion of how the Hamas victory shows that civil society is still thriving in the Occupied Territories coupled with sharp criticisms of the Olmert plan for unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank. I might go into more of that later, as his presentation crystallized the sense I've had that the Gaza disengagament and West Bank plans are two completely different animals in terms of their probable effect on the future of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but I'd want to find some of the graphics he used to make that point.

The other events were of the sort where the blogging would either be highly questionable at best, so I'll just say that Dr. Barghouti definitely made a good impression on me and most other people with whom he came into contact. I often quip that the worst part of being pro-Palestinian is having to be on the same side as the Palestinians, but if people like him had more influence, that would become a strength rather than a weakness. The problem, of course, is that he doesn't have much influence, and certainly not the same level of money that pours into the coffers of the likes of Fatah and Hamas. This is why I was struck by his push to try and organize overseas groups of friends of al-Mubadara, as well as humanitarian aid groups that would support health care in the Occupied Territories and for which he would undoubtedly get some credit, as well. It seems, I think, a plan to develop some sort of grassroots network among the Palestinian diaspora and other overseas pro-Palestinian factions that would allow him to compete with the better funded groups in terms of being associated with public services and providing resources. An analogy might be to Howard Dean's successful attempt to raise lots of money from small donors rather than large ones. Whether Barghouti will be successful remains to be seen.


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